Diokno says House wants Road Board funds, Andaya denies this

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 19) — It's "he said, she said" on who would benefit the most from the tax money that falls under the purview of the Road Board.

In a press briefing in Malacañang Wednesday morning, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that House of Representatives leaders Rolando Andaya and Danilo Suarez had asked him about releasing the funds in the Road Board.

"Alam naman ninyo election time eh, di ba? Inaasahan nila yun, na ma-release yun para naman siguro magamit nila sa kampanya," Diokno said.

[Translation: It's election time. They're relying on it, that the funds be released so that they might be able to use it to campaign.]

Diokno, who is an ex officio member of the Board because of his Cabinet position, said that he would not release the funds.

"I tell you, we will not release," he said.

The Road Board, which is headed by the secretaries of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Finance, and two representatives from the private sector, is in charge of around P45 billion worth of tax money collected by the government from road users.

The fund can only be used for road improvement projects upon approval of the Road Board.

Senate had already passed a bill to abolish the Road Board, which Malacañang is set to pass once the House of Representatives passes its own version of the measure.

However, the House version of the bill is still pending after it was rescinded at the third and final reading.

Both Andaya and Suarez are against the abolition of the Board.

READ: Palace: Duterte ordered Diokno to skip House probe on 'insertions'

Andaya, on the other hand, denied having spoken to Diokno about the funds and claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte had approved of the move to withdraw the bill abolishing the Road Board.

"I don't talk to him (Diokno)… Wala naman akong karapatang mag-follow up sa kanya dahil wala naman akong hinihingi," Andaya said.

[Translation: I have no right to follow up with him because I'm not asking for anything.]

He added that he and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had talked to Duterte about the Board, and claimed that Duterte wanted the road user's tax to be released.

"Tinanong po namin siya kung ano ba talaga ang nais pong mangyari ng ating mahal na Pangulo sa Road Board. He said na ipatuloy na ang pag-release. Ibig sabihin, ipagpatuloy na yung operation ng Road Board," Andaya said.

[Translation: We asked him what our beloved President wants to happen to the Road Board. He said that the funds should be released. This means the Road Board should continue its operations.]

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong and Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.